Martha's Vineyard vs. Nantucket: The Honest Comparison You Need! (2023)

Last updated on November 2, 2022 bywalk through our world

UEIdyllic islands, small town flair, bike tours and stunning beaches - what more could you ask for? Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, are great summer destinations.

But only 30 miles apart, what's the difference between them? And which one is right for you?

In fact, these goals, although close, are very different! Nantucket is smaller, more conservative, and has great public beaches. While Martha's Vineyard is more liberal, busier, and offers more options when it comes to dining, shopping, and nightlife.

Fortunately we know and love Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. Below, we delve into what each has to offer.

We compare vibes, beaches, activities and more. Everything to help you make the right choice!


  1. A quick overview
  2. What has better vibes and things to do?
  3. How do I compare activities and attractions?
  4. Where should you stay based on your budget?
  5. What is the best?
Martha's Vineyard vs. Nantucket: The Honest Comparison You Need! (1)

A quick overview Von Martha's Vineyard x Nantucket


Nantucket, which means "The Far Away Land" in the Wampanoag tribal language, is 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod. In fact, it was once named the "Best Island in the World" by National Geographic.

There are certainly beautiful beaches on the island, but also authentic lighthouses, surfing, and boutique shopping.

The island itself is not huge (14 miles long and 3.5 miles wide) and you can take the ferry and then bike without cars. In fact, we think it's the best way to experience Nantucket.

Made up of two quaint towns, it's easy to explore without taxis or even a car. By contrast, Martha's Vineyard is more than twice the size of Nantucket and consists of six cities. To be able to enjoy all this, you need your own car or use public transport.

Back to Nantucket! This charming island is perfect for relaxing or enjoying the fresh seafood that you can buy along the coast.

There are also many public beaches on Nantucket. That's not the case on Martha's Vineyard, where many beaches are private and gated.

That's a big difference between Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. There are often more ways to enjoy the natural surroundings on Nantucket. Whether it's on Nantucket's many public beaches or immersing yourself in nature, thanks to the fact that over 40% of Nantucket is a protected wildlife area.

Martha's Vineyard vs. Nantucket: The Honest Comparison You Need! (2)

Martas Weinberg

Martha's Vineyard was originally named Noepe, meaning "land between the streams," and was also named after the Wampanoag tribe. It's only seven miles from Cape Cod, compared to Nantucket's 30 miles, so the ferry ride takes less time. That's a plus for those who don't fly.

Tribal heritage is not all that these two islands have in common; In 1602, Martha's Vineyard was named for Bartholomew Gosnold, the same man who sighted and settled on Nantucket that same year!

He named the island after his daughter Martha and the weeds he found on the shore. So don't let the name fool you: there are no real vineyards on the island!

Popular with the rich and famous, this island has a very liberal and bohemian vibe. Nantucket, on the other hand, seems a bit more conservative.

Due to its size and the fact that there are more settlements, Martha's Vineyard also has more things to do. There is a livelier restaurant and night life. More than Nantucket, as we will show below.

This makes Martha's Vineyard probably the best option if you are looking for a combination of city exploration, nature experiences, trying different restaurants, and participating in a variety of activities.

Martha's Vineyard vs. Nantucket: The Honest Comparison You Need! (3)

What has better vibes and things to do?

Both destinations are clearly steeped in history and have fascinating histories dating back centuries.

Both also invest heavily in their tourism industry. Despite the size of both islands, there are numerous possibilities for excursions and accommodation.

In fact, Nantucket has prioritized tourism since the 1800s due to a need to raise funds after the island's traditional whaling activities declined.

Martha's Vineyard is also a very popular place, so much so that the population increases 10 times each summer!

But what else makes these islands unique and different from each other?

Martha's Vineyard vs. Nantucket: The Honest Comparison You Need! (4)


It's quiet on Nantucket (quieter than Martha's Vineyard) and serene. Staying here will almost take you back in time to when it was a whaling town in the 19th century.

The island consists of brown gravel buildings and white sand dunes. There is a truly historic and authentic charm that permeates throughout. There are many excellent restaurants and high-end restaurants, as well as boutiques.

This is certainly an upscale spot, and there's a real New England charm and preppy-chic feel to it.

On the cultural side, there are activities for everyone, from scenic walks along Scontset Bluff Walk to boating from the harbor.

And of course, don't miss Nantucket's gem - the whaling museum in the heart of downtown! After all, from the mid-1700s to the late 1830s, this was the whaling capital of the world!

The island is also home to more than 800 carefully restored pre-Civil War homes. That's more than anywhere else in the United States! So this is definitely a place that history lovers will enjoy.

We encourage you to experience the rich history of the island up close. So, in addition to strolling the streets and finding the pre-Civil War homes, be sure to visit Nantucket's three famous lighthouses: Brant Point Lighthouse, Sankaty Head Light, and Great Point Lighthouse. Everyone remembers 18th century Nantucket.

Finally, while smaller and less crowded than Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket is also somewhat more open and accessible. Not only can you travel on foot or by bike (and it's less hilly than Martha's Vineyard), but Nantucket's 30-plus beaches are open to the public. That's a huge plus!

Essentially, this is a laid-back, laid-back island where you can see for yourself history brought to life through beautifully restored architecture and museums.

Nantucket is also a perfect island for exploring the great outdoors, hiking, kayaking, biking on scenic byways, and enjoying pristine beaches.

Martha's Vineyard vs. Nantucket: The Honest Comparison You Need! (5)

Martas Weinberg

On the other hand, many, but not all, of the quality beaches on Martha's Vineyard are private. Therefore, you need permission to access it.

Regardless, this island remains a paradise for nature lovers. With rolling hills and cliffs, 200km of tidal coastline and a third of protected landscape, much of this island's character comes from its natural beauty. So there is a lot of nature to enjoy even if some of the beaches are closed.

Although we note there are no vineyards, Martha's Vineyard does have some top notch microbreweries for you to enjoy. There are also 50 local farms, demonstrating the island's local commitment to sustainable agriculture.

In fact, Martha's Vineyard is big on its harvest and food scene, and you can join hikes and food tours in the spring and fall to join in the celebration of island produce. That's one of the reasons, along with the excellent restaurants on the island, why we think Martha's Vineyard is better for foodies than Nantucket.

Another thing we like about Martha's Vineyard is the authentic, independent atmosphere that remains there. This island has not been infested by chain stores, restaurants or hotels from the interior. Instead, it fosters a local community of caring artisans and entrepreneurs where everything is unique.

Also, the arts and culture scene here is fantastic year-round. So you can fill your evenings with elegant gallery tours, live music events, theater visits and entertainment after taking in the stunning views during the day.

That's one of the big things that sets Martha's Vineyard apart from Nantucket. Martha's Vineyard's art and music scene is truly a winner.

Martha's Vineyard vs. Nantucket: The Honest Comparison You Need! (6)

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Although they are small, there are many things to see and do on these small but mighty islands.

We briefly introduce you to some of our favorite places to relax and make the most of your vacation. As you will see, what you can do on each island also says a lot about its character and whether or not it is the right vacation option for you.


Windswept beaches aren't hard to find here, but neither are relaxing stretches of countryside, if that's your style. If so, check out the conservation areas!

Dionis Beach is one of our favorite places on Nantucket - it's beautiful, quiet, and right on a harbor. With about 300 feet of loose sand before you reach the beach, it makes for a romantic day trip. It's usually not too crowded either.

There's also Jetties Beach, one of Nantucket's most popular beaches, just outside of town on the North Shore.

It's a huge beach that takes its name from the pier, as you may have guessed! It comes fully equipped with a beachfront restaurant, coffee shop, and tourist shop for all those essential souvenirs!

Martha's Vineyard vs. Nantucket: The Honest Comparison You Need! (7)

Martas Weinberg

It's worth mentioning that the movie Jaws was actually filmed on Martha's Vineyard! That's because the producers thought Long Island was too busy, while Martha's Vineyard offered that "strangely empty" setting!

So, in case you're looking to retrace the steps of 27-year-old Steven Spielberg, we highlight some of the locations that were featured in the film.

In short: the opening scene took place in the port town of Martha's Vineyard on Vineyard Haven; Bonfire Night in the Dunes was at South Beach in Katama; and the infamous first shark attack took place off Cow Beach in Edgartown. And there's your layover tour and three destinations to add to your Martha's Vineyard bucket list!

You'll earn bonus points if you strike up a conversation with some of the older villagers. They usually have the best stories to tell, as many were cast as extras in the movie itself!

Martha's Vineyard vs. Nantucket: The Honest Comparison You Need! (8)

Where should you stay based on your budget?


cords: ÖCasa Sarg Jared, one of Nantucket's best-known hotels, captures the spirit of this former fishing village with its attractive accommodations.

This Nantucket landmark occupies a former mansion where you can relax in charming rooms and inviting common areas. Air-conditioned rooms offer beautiful views of the Nantucket skyline and are adorned with artifacts and soothing vintage colors.

Experience the bustling center of the island just steps away and the location puts you right next to plenty of shops, restaurants, and activities. See photos and prices fromaccess this link.

Budget: With its peaceful living environment, green gardens and relaxed atmosphere,House of Life Nantucket- housed in a historic 19th century inn - it's quality but affordable.

Enjoy a delicious complimentary breakfast each morning in the lounge, or gather in the garden or on the terrace for tea and coffee.

It's also close to all the action, including beaches and restaurants, making this hotel perfect for making the most of your stay on Nantucket. See photos and more belowthis link.

lux: ÖNantucket Hotel & Resortit is one of the best hotels on Nantucket (see photo below) and one of the few hotels open year-round on the island. It is a destination that stands out for its combination of luxury and relaxed island atmosphere.

There are a variety of luxurious suites, rooms, and cabanas at the resort, some with ocean views and an outdoor hot tub.

The hotel also features a fitness center, spa, kids' activities, on-site restaurant with fire pits, and two seasonally heated outdoor pools. Beaches, shops, restaurants, boutiques and art galleries are within walking distance. See more photos and prices belowaccess this link.

Martha's Vineyard vs. Nantucket: The Honest Comparison You Need! (9)

Martas Weinberg

cords:Edgartown CommonsIt may be the ideal accommodation for your trip to Martha's Vineyard, offering reasonable, comfortable accommodations at a fantastic price.

This self-contained residence features an outdoor pool, children's playground and a picnic area with barbecue facilities. The building is close to the restaurants and shops on Main Street in Edgartown and also close to the waterfront, so it's close to all the action. See photos and prices fromaccess this link.

Budget: Öhotel overlooking the harborin the quaint community of Edgartown surrounded by miles of stunning beaches and coastline. It is a great budget option.

This premier resort (see photo below) offers visitors the ultimate Martha's Vineyard retreat, complete with fantastic on-site restaurants and spectacular harbor views. And all without breaking the bank.

This famous hotel is just steps from shops, art galleries, beaches and sunset cruises. So you have everything right at your doorstep. See more photos and prices belowvisit this link.

lux:Stove Knob Luxury Boutique Hotel & SpaIt is a luxury hotel that has received guests for almost a century.

Imagine the ideal getaway to Martha's Vineyard, offering excellent personalized attention, spa services and relaxation in a calm and sophisticated environment. You can get that here.

The Hob Knob is also ideally located in the heart of Edgartown, just steps from the city's museums, delicious seafood at many excellent restaurants, and a wide variety of outdoor activities. See photos and prices fromaccess this link.

Martha's Vineyard vs. Nantucket: The Honest Comparison You Need! (10)

Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket: Which is better?

The obvious difference between these islands is size, and while size isn't everything, it can make a difference depending on how adventurous and varied you want to make your vacation.

Nantucket is made up of just two quaint towns compared to six on Martha's Vineyard, so the latter is busier as a result.

However, both definitely offer an escape from the urban life of the city. Just in a slightly different way.

Frequently frequented by celebrities and politicians, Martha's Vineyard has a laid-back, preppy, boho/casual vibe. Everybody goes everywhere in a swimsuit, flip-flops and shorts. It also has a wealthier African-American community, which is reflected in its more liberal and artistic community.

While you won't get bored either, the size of Martha's Vineyard offers more options for dining, shopping and nightlife. However, this means you'll have to consider using a bus or car to get around, whereas on Nantucket you can use a bike if you want.

On the other hand, getting to Martha's Vineyard is usually a bit easier as ferries and flights tend to arrive more frequently.

On Nantucket, on the other hand, things are a bit more sophisticated. It is smaller, more familiar and more conservative. While you can, of course, and definitely dress however you like, the overall look is preppy chic, so consider a preppy getaway to New England.

Nantucket has the advantage of having its beaches open to the public, but as a tip, this island grows to about 50,000 residents in the summer, so booking accommodation is quick!

In the end, both Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard are amazing vacations, and ultimately it all comes down to your own preferences. Whatever you decide, have fun!


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